Judas' Gift

The current (Christmas) issue of the London Review of Books features a one-page essay by writer and psychoanalyst (psychoanalyst writer?), Adam Phillips.

The last essay I read by Phillips, In Praise of Difficult Children, was - what other word can I use except 'brilliant'? From that can be unpacked: Insightful, thought-provoking, reassuring... Well it is the same of this current one, Judas' Gift. (There have been others in the LRB etween In Praise of ... and this one, which were also most of the above.) But perhaps there is a link between In Praise Of and Judas' Gift.

The latter lays out the elements of betrayal and then repositions them using the world's most famous traitor, Judas.

Phillips asks the reader to consider ourselves a betrayer; not just that, but to embrace it for what it could represent. It is Bob Dylan who is used to open this topic, though, and his betrayal of acoustic at Manchester's Free Trade Hall. Dylan had the audacity to greet his loyal followers with the electric guitar. When a fan shouted "Judas", Dylan 'responded by instructing his band to 'play fucking loud''.

Dylan's act of treachery, Phillips says, enabled his artistic growth. It was needed to service innovation. Many fans left that concert asking themselves WTF!? Yet Jesus didn't say the same of Judas - for Judas's act was needed in order to drive the plot line forward, bringing about Jesus's ultimate purpose.

Jesus knew who he could trust to betray him.

Yet it is a different betrayal from Dylan and his 'followers', who would be forced to reject their hero (why have heroes?), anf find a new one who would remain traditionally, well, traditional; safe. Or they would stick with Dylan - 'read' his music as the evolution of a musician they love(d).

Love demands so much - namely that of accepting change. Of both knowing - and waiting to feel - the need that our loved ones or those whom we've grown attached to - that others have to be true to themselves, which inevitably means betraying others. It also means recognising that we too will have to betray - that we will need to be true to ourselves in many different ways.

Phillips goes further. He asks just what was Judas doing in betraying Jesus. Why was he doing it? 'In betraying someone or something one is protecting someone or something else. And that someone or something else is of real value'.

For Dylan he was protecting his artistic growth ahead of the future monies and approval of his fans.

For Jesus and Judas Phillips asks what Judas had that gave him a priviledged position 'what did Judas have that the other disciples didn't that Jesus could use to transform himself'.

Dylan needed to lose or to obtain the disapproval of his fans in order to fully enter the new terrain. In sticking to the safety of a horde of followers who will accept only one type of music
(and with it - for many - the adherence to acoustic which represented a whole set of values) he was also removing himself - or attempting to - as their god.
There are many ways of reading it.
We all have our own instances. Yes, it's one of the most painful things. Betrayal by others is twinned with rage. And underneath that, ineffable sadness; insecurity; loss. Grief.

And yet life asks - of we are to live it fully and progressively - that we time and time again trust a few people. Who then, in many ways, let us down. And then we have to try and restore ourselves and repeat. And be prepared to betray others when it is absolutely necessary. Despite writing all this I don't fully understand - at a gut level - the impact that betrayal - my own and others - has had on my life and what the fear of confronting or executing more of it - 'really means'. I suppose it has a lot to do with the 'difficult child' within each of us - the one who wants to forge its own path yet still wants 'a way home'. Yet, as Phillips also includes, we have to be prepared to be in a place with 'no direction home'. It is also timely, at this time of ear, not because of Jesus and judas, but because of the 'call home' at this time of e year; of the duty to take up old roles; old dynamics. Perhaps next year - maybe even tomorrow - demands innovation; needs to stop using the old radar.

Location:Train from Manchester to Cardiff

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